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The Antikythera ‘mechanism’ decoded…

SkyHarbor, 2012/05/31 

Main Antikythera mechanism fragment dated to the early 1st century BCE.

When some storm-tossed sponge divers sought shelter in 1900 at the small Aegean island of Antikythera northwest of Crete, they thought they’d try to recoup something for their trouble and so sent a lone diver down to take a quick look around. The diver re-surfaced raving about ‘dead bodies’ on the sea floor. Further dives determined that they’d stumbled upon an ancient shipwreck and that the ‘bodies’ the initial diver had seen were instead statues strewn about on the bottom.

Realising that they had struck archaeological ‘gold’, they began salvaging as much as they could bring up from the wreck. Salvage continued over the next two years. Amongst the beautiful statuary and amphorae were found a few fragments of a curious machine-like artifact (see picture above) which was badly corroded and completely encrusted in two millennia of oxidation, debris and sea moss. The finds were returned to Athens where the statuary, much of it of exceptional artistic quality, along with the mystery ‘device’ were turned over to the Greek National Archaeological Museum…

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Cool things you can do with DNA

Cat eyes, 2012/05/30 

dna-letters

“The Trap”… a dark explication of our times…

SkyHarbor,  

I found this 3-part BBC documentary both intriguing and troubling. What is ‘Freedom’ anyway? We all think we KNOW, but do we? Do we really?

How our present world was profoundly shaped by Cold War paranoia and the wide application of Game Theory to it… and the things and attitudes which flowed from that. Disturbing. Very.

In Which I Rave

byronius, 2012/05/28 

I’ve been reading novels since I was eight. Billions of novels, over and over, little bespectacled nerdy reading Everything. Surely you know me.

Now, later in this life, I report. This — this work, this art, this perfection. I’ve read everything Philip K. Dick has ever written, except this, this last one. Published by his estate after his death, I had never heard of it, seen it, touched it.

I just finished it. It’s called ‘Humpty Dumpty In Oakland’, and it is, without a doubt, the finest novel I have ever read.

Ernest Hemingway wants to be this. William Shakespeare trembles beneath it. I swear to you, I’ve never read such a thing, it has altered me permanently.

Can’t describe it, no way, no how, no sir. But I can quote the heart of it.

“The truth vastly overrated anyhow,” Tootie said, half to himself. “Actual truth is, everybody stink. Life a drag. Everything that live going to die. Truth is, nothing worth doing; all end badly anyhow. You tell that, you doing nobody a service.”

“That’s not the only side of reality,” Al said.

“Okay, maybe not. Other side is what? You tell me.”

Al considered, but he could not express it.

I’ve never read such a novel. William Faulkner tried, but failed next to this. Steinbeck a pale shadow of this brilliance. This is the American Novel. My god. So beautiful. Perfect.

Anyway. I had to say this. Rave complete.

How far is forever?…

SkyHarbor,  

“Don’t make me stop this car!”

Obama the lousy socialist

Max,  

Sometimes this guy is so absolutely perfect.

Latest from MC Ancient

Max, 2012/05/25 

Shares a family connection of some sort.

Life is Brutal

Cat eyes, 2012/05/23 

graphic imagery follows
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The New Music

Demonweed,  

When I last had a regular day job, it was the late 90s, and I felt like music was slipping away from modern culture.  I really enjoyed the Seattle sounds of the early 90s, and I downright revere the progressive masters of the late 60s and early 70s.  However, while I was toiling away to build a better Web, year by year the soundtrack that sustained my energy level was getting older.  I was not one bit happy to be entering the era of Britney Spears and ‘N Sync.  Yet, 10-15 years ago, almost every conversation I had with an undergraduate about modern music left me feeling dark about the future of the art form.

Of course there was always a trickle of exceptions.  I could get through a party full of trashy tunes if no one objected to me slipping a little Fat Boy Slim or Moby into the mix.  In various forms, some of the alternative artists I enjoyed in my own undergraduate years were still out there producing albums (I think Pearl Jam even retains their original lineup to this day.)  Also, I could still find jam band festivals to keep my spirits up, and my own foray into musical performance (while 90% cover band antics) was satisfying.  Even so, it was hard to see the future of music as brighter than its recent past.

Lately though, I’ve felt a stirring from a new direction.  The Gorillaz and Gnarls Barkley might represent the vanguard of this movement, but more and more it looks like Billboard charts are speckled with something other than autotuned manufactured corporate schlock.  Even teens are starting to groove on music that strikes me as artistically redeeming.  It may still be a minority of what sells recordings, but it feels to me like a growing minority.  Here are a couple of tracks I believe represent this phenomenon.



There is no mistaking that these arrangements/mixes are 21st century music, but they seem to be the product of thoughtful and tasteful efforts of the sort that nearly vanished from the realm of popular music 10 years ago.  My ears detect none of those hideous “alert noises” that openly evil executives ordered producers to include in mixes for the purpose of grabbing the attention of channel-surfing listeners.  Some of the idioms of trashy modern pop remain, but recordings like these seem to redeem those idioms by depriving them of vulgarity in favor of a gentle and skillful touch.

Has anyone else noticed this sort of trend over the past few years?  Am I having a random bout of optimism, or is the industry really recovering from the blight that began when huge multinationals bought up major recording labels?  What say you, New Worlders, about the prospect of an artistic renaissance in the realm of popular music?  I suspect the charts will always include some greats and some garbage, but my gut says that the pendulum is at last swinging toward favorable territory.  However, at least a few of you have more experience and better sensibilities than I in this area.

Whales and eclipses

Max, 2012/05/21 

annular_eclipse
Photo by Gena Cherkashyn, 5/20/12, Half Moon Bay, CA

Last nights annular eclipse provided an opportunity for an impromptu dinner party at the home of the River Horse in Half Moon Bay. A highlight of the evening was a stroll out to the bluffs overlooking the surf just south of town as the eclipse began. Surprisingly, the eclipse was upstaged for a time by a large pod of whales just offshore, just a little too far out to get any decent pictures. At one point I saw three whales spouting within a few sheet of each other and saw the spouts of a dozen or so within a matter of a few minutes. Pretty spectacular. Were they gathering to witnessed the rare event? What do we really know about what they might be aware of?

whales

Meanwhile, overhead something a tad unusual was occurring. We all had fun making pinhole cameras with our hands and watching the mini-eclipses formed within the shadows. Walking back to the RH domicile it was quite a festive occasion, with neighbors out viewing the phenomenon by various means. One guy had a viewer made from welder’s glasses so you could look right at it. Awesome.

I encountered a six year old girl with her Mom and the little one was absolutely ecstatic to be making eclipses with hand shadows. She’ll probably remember it the rest of her life. A little later I walked under a tree and saw that the dappled rays had made a multitude of little eclipses all over the ground beneath. The best was saved for last. Just as the eclipse peaked at about 84% coverage in our locale, a fog bank slowly rolled in and provided a perfect viewing filter for a few minutes. One of the guests snapped the picture above. Then it was gone and only the memory remained. What a great event.

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